New Directions celebrates three years in Jacksonville

By Nick Kovatch on January 27 at 1:11pm

This weekend marked the three-year anniversary of a community organization that’s been a home for many, when they’ve had nowhere else to go.

Our reporting partners at WICS ABC Newschannel 20 talked to Executive Director of the New Directions Warming and Cooling Center Vanessa Tyus.

“I said this is what my goal, this is what my dream is, and I want to be able to have a homeless shelter in the Jacksonville area,” says Tyus.

William Hood, a homeless man and Jacksonville native, says the city used be a place where the homeless struggled to find a warm place.

“There was nothing here in Jacksonville, I mean, nothing here for homeless people, nothing at all,” Hood says.

Now, they have a center that residents describe using words like “home” and “family.”

New Directions Cooling and Warming Center opened back in February of 2011. Since then, it has helped more than 700 adults and children.

But Tyus says it wasn’t always as nice as it is now.

“When we first started, no, we didn’t have any of this,” says Tyus. “We had cots. We had some stuff, but we didn’t have a lot.”

But resident James Six says it has come together over the past three years.

“Now we got bunk beds, lockers, just a lot great stuff,” says Six.

As part of the anniversary celebration, students at Illinois College put on a play based off stories from residents at New Directions.

“I started at the beginning and didn’t stop crying until the end because it brought back so many memories, and it brought reality too. Just to sit back and watch was very emotional,” says Tyus.

As you can imagine, this is their busiest time of year. In addition to monetary donations, the shelter is collecting paper products, plates, napkins, cups, and twin-sized blankets and sheets for the beds.

Watch the full story from WICS ABC Newschannel 20.